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PA9049 Communications Primer, A 16 Eastmancolor print
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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First-rate educational short. Good editing, kinda arty. Typical of the high quality we come to expect from Eames films.
Subject: Wow! And this was 1958!
Insanely accurately and prescient given that Shannon published his seminal papers about communication channels and information only 12 years before this film was made. If only more people understood these ideas. They are applicable well beyond the obvious engineering applications of communication technology, being relevant to human cognition and economics as well.
The attribution of information theory and communication channels to also applying to brains is accurate and it is still surprising that anyone still argues this but they do, especially in academia. The likely reason is that direct empirical measurements of effective bandwidths for the retina and connections to rational awareness give numbers that are embarrassingly too small to align with most academic and political ideologies regarding human abilities, particularly with regard to rationality.
The presumption of the analogy between the brain and a computer was correctly disposed of in the film, though they go on to extrapolate the brains capabilities which should be interpreted at a Reductio Ad Absurdum for comparing the brain to computers but too often is likely (and unjustifiably) to be taken as proof of supernatural edification of the human brain and its position above and separate from the animal kingdom.
I like the "responsibility" part at the end - attributing and deferring moral and moral decisions to objects is all too common: a poor workman blames his tools. Many films of this period had stuff like this which helped to avoid the slide into intellectual laziness.
The fact that common knowledge about these concepts is still so rare 50 years after this film was produced yet this film came only a decade after Shannon's seminal paper sadly suggests we've gotten stupider since the 1950s. We should have been much further along in out understanding and acceptance of these concepts by now.
POst by Bill stated that: "Which of course, brings me to the films of Ray and Charles Eames. The Eames brothers..."???
Charles and Ray were husband and wife, not brothers. They were not initially architects. Ray was a visual artist. This is a classic Eames film and a great introduction to their creativity that spanned many industries.
Bill T. -
Subject: Educational films as 'Art'
Which of course, brings me to the films of Ray and Charles Eames. The Eames brothers really dared to fool around with the question 'What is a euphemeral film?' (Much like Herk Harvey I suppose) and proceed to put their own arty spin (I do believe initially they were architects) on these films. On 'A Communication Primer', from beginning to end, we're faced with an odd history of communication, told with interesting images and off-puting strange narration that seems dull and boring, but never really wrong for this type of movie. Like their animated stuff, this film is not for everyone. I know a couple of people who swear that the Eames are total geniuses, and maybe they are.. I just am not a big fan.
Christine Hennig -
Subject: Smarter Than Your Average Educational Film
This film was made by Charles and Ray Eames, which makes it more intelligent and visually striking than most educational films. It deals with the semantics of communication, breaking down the concept into a flow chart of choosing, coding, sending, receiving, decoding, and understanding messages. This is applied to modes of communication as simple as ÃÂone if by land and two if by seaÃÂ and as complex as billions of neurons firing in the human nervous system. Visually, these concepts are portrayed with a collage of animation, film clips, photographs, electronically-generated images, and images from famous works of art. Aurally, they are portrayed with deadpan narration and a haunting music score by Elmer Bernstein. This film is to films like Communications and Our Town, as 2nd-grade social studies is to a graduate-level course in philosophy. But at heart, itÃÂs still an educational film, so it still qualifies as ephemera, though smarter than your average piece of ephemera. The EamesÃÂ were key players in the modernist design movement, giving this film a great deal of historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Steve Nordby -
The basics of communication presented in this 1953 introduction to "the era of communication" (aka the information age) are still true in 2003. Transmission, noise, redundancy, distortion... misunderstanding. Foresight into the importance of the computer but a misleading comparison to the human brain, and an irrelevant (though entertaining) clip of sounds generated from scanning computer punch cards. The film is scratched and the narrative dry, but the visuals are well done and quite compelling at times.